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The WK&T


CONNECTION Published for the members of West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative

HAMMERING OUT GREAT FOOD Tasty eats are Hardware Cafe’s foundation



A heating and air business grows online

Watermelon Festival brings summertime treats


Rural Connections BY SHIRLEY BLOOMFIELD, CEO NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

Lessons from our Founding Fathers


s we celebrate Independence Day, I reflect on the patriots who helped start America. We are indebted to these Founding Fathers who fought for and forged the beginnings of our nation. I was fortunate to have two experiences this spring that put the Founding Fathers on my mind early this year — and reminded me of the important work NTCA does to represent our member telcos and the people they serve. The first lesson came in April when I attended a seminar at the Washington Library in Mount Vernon. We can learn many things from our first president, but what struck me is how Washington made so many decisions with people’s longterm interests in mind. He knew that the choices he made would have implications for decades, and he wisely considered their impact. The second lesson came in May when I was able to attend the musical “Hamilton.” The show tells the story of our first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton. One of the songs in “Hamilton,” “In The Room Where It Happens,” discusses the importance of being at the table when decisions are made. The lessons from these Founding Fathers reminded me of the duty we have at NTCA to represent rural America. We deal with policy matters that have long-lasting implications for millions of Americans, and we have to make sure policymakers keep that in mind. In order to do that, it’s important for NTCA to represent you and your telco in the rooms where decisions are made. 

2 | July/August 2017


Don’t let your business get held hostage

magine arriving at work one morning to find everything on your computer locked, accompanied by a message that if you want to regain access, you’ll have to pay money to the people who locked it. This is what happens when a computer is infected with a type of virus called ransomware, and in recent months, computer systems across the globe have been taken hostage. The virus known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt gains access to computers using a security hole in Windows’ server software. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to these attacks because they often can’t dedicate as many resources to cybersecurity as larger companies. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission recommends an easy way to protect your business from this threat: Make sure your system software is up to date. Like any real-world thieves, hackers are always looking to exploit holes in a system’s security, while software companies race to find and close them first. Many computers download and install these security updates automatically; however, if your business uses an older, unsupported version of Windows, you may need to visit Microsoft’s website to download the latest update. The Commission also suggests protecting against ransomware attacks by backing up important files. Businesses save many important documents on computers and mobile devices, from tax forms to planning documents. Get into the habit of backing up those files in the cloud or to a hard drive. Log out of the cloud when you’re finished, and unplug any external hard drives afterward so that hackers cannot use ransomware to lock them. Avoid unfamiliar links, attachments and apps as well. The most common source of ransomware is phishing emails. You should never click on a link, download an attachment or follow an ad from a source you don’t know and trust. Because small businesses are a vital part of the economy and are often targeted by scammers, the Commission has launched a website dedicated to helping those businesses protect themselves. For more information on defending against ransomware, data breaches and other cybersecurity threats, visit ftc.gov/ SmallBusiness. 


Travel tips for the digital family


acations were not something we took when I was growing up. Between our family’s tight budget and my dad’s work schedule, it was just too hard to get away. Now as a working mom, I am trying to do my best to take my boys on at least one trip each summer. Some years, we are only able

to do short weekend trips, but I am trying to organize bigger vacations as my boys get older. Regardless of the types of trips we take, I want to make them as affordable and stress-free as possible. Here are some apps I use and activities I plan to help make each trip a success.

MY TRAVEL APPS bb TripAdvisor: This is a well-known and commonly used app to get reviews on hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants and more. I use this very frequently when traveling. bb Yelp: If you need a great local restaurant, try looking at Yelp. There you can read reviews from customers and find the best places to eat. bb GasBuddy: Find the cheapest gas near your location. bb Waze: Get crowdsourced travel information and directions. Be one of the first to know of traffic jams, accidents, road conditions or road construction. You can contribute to and access realtime information. bb iExit: Find out if the next interstate exit has helpful resources such as a gas station, a campground, a restaurant or a hotel. Also, don’t forget to add to your vacation fun with activities or projects.


bb Geocaching: Geocaching is one of my favorite activities to do with my

g Parentin Tip

family while traveling. It allows you to treasure hunt in a fun, affordable way. Geocaching uses GPS to find little hidden treasures all across the country. Many of these treasures are nothing more than a little metal container (often half the size of a finger or smaller) containing a rolled-up piece of paper that you can sign and date to show you found the item. Sometimes there are little treasure boxes where you can remove an item and replace it with something else. Download a GPS app and get out and explore. You can learn more by going to www.geocaching.com. bb Digital Scrapbooking: Any time you travel, have your kids contribute to the memories by letting them use a camera or video recorder. Sometimes the pictures they take and the videos they make are some of your most treasured. Then, take those videos and pictures and make a digital scrapbook or video using websites or apps such as Shutterfly or Animoto. Whether you are planning a weekend camping trip or a two-week beach vacation, it helps to be prepared so everyone can have fun and enjoy the trip. Happy traveling! 


A movie, audiobook or podcast can help time in the car pass quickly — for children or grown-ups. To save on mobile data, download these using your home Wi-Fi network before hitting the road. July/August 2017 | 3


United to improve infrastructure


n this day of harsh political divisions, few issues have widespread support in both parties. But one topic finds consensus on both sides of the aisle in Congress — and telcos like WK&T play a major role in this discussion. Investing in infrastructure, everything from roads and bridges to schools and waterlines, was a leading issue during the 2016 presidential campaign for many candidates. Putting money into infrastructure, it was argued, would not only improve assets such as airports, hospitals and tunnels, but would also create new jobs for Americans. Since the election, this emphasis has continued, with both parties putting forth plans that would improve the systems that make our society work. Like most Americans, I agree that improving TREVOR our infrastructure is important. I’m eager to see improved roads BONNSTETTER and upgraded transportation options. But WK&T and our partChief Executive Officer ners around the state and country want to make sure these plans include broadband for rural America. In 2010, the FCC summed it up nicely when the commission released its National Broadband Plan. “Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century,” the FCC report states in its opening line. “Like electricity a century ago, broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. It is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.” Improving broadband connectivity is a key to our nation’s strength and security. While there are sure to be arguments over the amount of federal funding, how incentives are delivered, and which regulations may be relaxed, most experts believe we’re in for a period of investment and building not seen in several decades. As we celebrate Independence Day, Americans should be proud to see such a massive effort to rebuild and modernize the roads, water systems, power grids and communication networks that have made progress possible in our nation. And as a customer of WK&T, you can be proud to know that your telecommunications provider has a voice in shaping these national policies, thanks to our work with NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. Some 850 telcos like ours across the nation are unified through NTCA in our efforts to make sure our story — your story — is heard by the policymakers who are shaping America’s infrastructure decisions. Shirley Bloomfield, the chief executive officer of NTCA, said it best: “Small, hometown broadband providers have led and are continuing to lead the way in deploying high-speed, sustainable broadband that responds to the needs of consumers and businesses in rural America.” We face many challenges in continuing that good work, but we remain committed to keeping your needs at the forefront as elected officials make choices in the coming months about where to invest your tax dollars in order to improve America’s infrastructure. With so much attention from both political parties on investing in our communities, the time is right to share our story with all who will listen. Will you join us? Visit www.buildbroadbandwithus.com and sign up to become an advocate to help spread awareness of the critical need for rural broadband infrastructure. It’s a rare moment when there is consensus among our leaders. Help shape our tomorrow by joining the broadband movement today. 

4 | July/August 2017


VOL. 9, NO. 4

The WK&T Connection is published by West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative, © 2017. It is distributed without charge to all members of the cooperative.

is your cooperative serving West Kentucky and Northwest Tennessee across more than 13,000 access lines. The company is dedicated to using technology to keep its members connected through local and long-distance calling, high-speed Internet, digital television and beyond.

Send address corrections to: WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative P.O. Box 649 • 237 N 8th Street Mayfield, KY 42066 Telephone: 877-954-8748 www.mywkt.net BOARD OF TRUSTEES Joe Thompson President Ricky Littleton Vice President Beverly Taylor Secretary/Treasurer Bob Barnett Jeff Davis Tony Goodman Jerry Holloway Jerry Stephenson

Produced for WK&T by:

On the Cover: Mary Ann Wilson operates the Hardware Cafe in Cunningham with her husband, P.J. They serve meals that keep customers smiling. See story Page 9.

///////////////////////// Don’t forget — it’s annual meeting time! WK&T’s annual meeting is July 15 at the WK&T Technology Park (formerly the Mid-Continent University Campus) at 99 E. Powell Road, Mayfield, Kentucky. Doors open at 9 a.m., and there will be coffee and donuts. The business meeting will begin promptly at 10 a.m. Excellent door prizes will be announced after the meeting, and you must be present to win.

Scholarship winner

Allie Seavers

Allie Seavers of Fancy Farm, Kentucky, is the recipient of the $1,500 WK&T-FRS 2017 scholarship. Her parents are Eric and Kim Seavers, and she is a 2017 graduate of Graves County High School. She will attend Murray State University in the fall. Congratulations to Allie and to all of our local graduates!

WEBSITE FACELIFT — Be on the lookout for a new look at mywkt.net. WK&T is unveiling a new website soon. Here’s a sneak peek.

#skiptakesatrip Come by the WK&T office and pick up your very own travel companion — Skip, the star of the company’s latest Facebook contest. You could win! Just take him with you on your summer vacation and snap a photo to share on social media. Tag WK&T and use #skiptakesatrip.

Hurry, he’s only available while supplies last!

WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative

Happy anniversary to our fiber connection!

WK&T recently celebrated five years of providing fast, reliable fiber internet. A recent study found that Netflix accounted for more than 40 percent of WK&T’s online traffic. With streaming devices readily available and smart TVs gaining popularity, it’s no surprise that streaming entertainment is widely used. WK&T asked its Facebook followers how they used their internet connections, and many responses referenced streaming movies or videos. Here are a few comments about great uses for lightning-fast and reliable fiber internet: “We love our internet! Netflix, gaming devices, and allowing me to access my work from home to spend more time with my babies. It’s a blessing we often take for granted.” –Samantha Davis “Love the faster speed. We have a Roku, three mobile devices, and one child gaming all the time and it hasn’t failed us.” –Tammy Hill Cooper Want to join the online conversation for the most up-to-date news and chances to win contests? Follow WK&T on Facebook and Twitter!

Know what’s below.

Call 811 before you dig. July/August 2017 | 5

Photos courtesy of NPS.


Even 5 isn’t too young to be a


RANGER A long-running program offers adventure and education A ranger leads a bird program at Congaree National Park in South Carolina.


ired of the beach and had enough of movie theaters and playgrounds? This summer, get the kids off the couch and have them head in a new direction as Junior Rangers. And they have fun. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate. Parks are open daily except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Junior Ranger programs are free with park admission and offered all year. Junior Rangers help preserve outdoor treasures as the National Park Service’s representatives to their friends, families and schoolmates back home. They share their knowledge about parks and continue to use good environmental practices. Junior Ranger programs are offered in national parks across the South. Here are a few favorites:

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Little River Canyon National Preserve, Fort Payne, Alabama Learn what it takes to keep Little River Canyon National Preserve in pristine condition, find out what can be discovered in the park, and discover how to do these activities safely. Those things and more fill an activity book for kids found in the park’s visitors center. Those who complete the book will take an oath and receive a badge and certificate before heading out to experience firsthand what they’ve learned while exploring the more than 15,000 acres of land atop Lookout Mountain. The park is Alabama’s only national preserve, home to several native endangered species, such as the green pitcher plant, Kral’s water plantain and tiny blue shiner minnows. Take a dip in the Little River. Or pack a picnic and take a hike to Mushroom Rock, one of many natural sculptures forged by millions of years of water pouring through the canyon. There’s much to see, do and learn in this wonderland of nature. fPark admission: Free ($3 per vehicle to park in picnic area). fInformation: 256-845-9605 or www.nps.gov/liri.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville, Kentucky A lot of people don’t realize our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, wasn’t born in Illinois, The Land of Lincoln. “He was born in a little cabin at Sinking Spring Farm here in Kentucky,” says Stacy Humphreys, chief of interpretations and resource management at the park. “The Junior Ranger program helps kids learn about the park and the formative years of Abraham Lincoln.” Kids will enjoy discovering facts about the man and his family by touring the cabin and museum. They can track their steps through an activity book. There are different books for different ages, and once a book is completed, a ranger will check answers and issue a badge and certificate to the park’s newest Junior Ranger. “It’s a wonderful program, and we get excellent response from parents who come asking if we have a Junior Ranger program,” Humphreys says. “I’ve had a lot of children come in with Junior Ranger badges from other parks sewn onto hats, shirts and vests. The program inspires kids to visit other national parks.” fPark admission: Free. fInformation: 270-358-3137 or www.nps.gov/abli.

Congaree National Park, Hopkins, South Carolina Walking deep into a forest surrounded by giant oaks, loblolly pines and acres of massive cypress is all part of the Junior Ranger program at this park founded in 1976. Congaree National Park preserves the last big chunk of old-growth bottomland forest found in the United States. “We have the tallest trees in the Eastern

Junior Rangers can earn a badge at Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama.

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Kentucky offers an activity book.

United States,” says Scott Teodorski, chief of interpretations. “If you want to see trees in their natural, old primeval state, this is the place to do it.” The park’s Junior Ranger program is geared toward learning about these trees and the park’s history, its plants and animals. Pick up an activity book at the visitors center and wander through the park with your children on a self-guided tour. If you don’t have a lot of time, the book can be completed at the center. “We work with the kids to make sure they get their badge or patch — it’s their choice — and certificate,” Teodorski adds. “And then they’re sworn in. This is one of the most memorable things we do as park rangers. The program is one of the best things going for the national park system. It’s a piece of our future.” fPark admission: Free (There are fees for camping in campgrounds). fInformation: 803-776-4396 or www. nps.gov/cong.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Oneida, Tennessee The Junior Ranger program at Big South Fork takes kids on a ranger-led program around the park, followed by completion of an age-appropriate activity book. Once the work is finished, a ranger signs off, the book gets stamped and dated, and your child will be sworn in as an official Junior Ranger. But only after taking an oath: “I (child’s name) pledge to be a good Junior Ranger, to learn about Big South Fork National Recreation Area, and to protect the park from harm. I will help others have fun learning about the park and the Big South Fork River. I will do my part to follow rules of the park and always act in a safe manner.”

The program, now in its fifth year, has become increasingly popular, says Chris Derman, chief of interpretations. “There are some kids who have a large collection of badges and want to add more,” he says. Big South Fork offers a wide range of recreational activities, including hiking, mountain biking, water sports and hunting. The park encompasses 125,000 acres, with sections in Tennessee and Kentucky. Youth can pick up Junior Ranger books at one of the visitors centers or download one at www.nps.gov/biso and complete it prior to a visit. Booklets are available in English and Spanish. fPark admission: Free (There are fees for pool use and camping). fInformation: 423-569-9778 or www. nps.gov/biso.

Waco Mammoth National Monument, Waco, Texas Young paleontologists will have fun becoming a Junior Ranger at Waco Mammoth National Monument. Go on a tour. Dig in a mock dig pit at the Excavation Station. Have a picnic. Participate in special programs and try the newest activity, “Bone-oculars,” where you can decorate your own binoculars to take with you on the tour to see mammoth bones. It’s all part of the park’s Junior Ranger program and the only program in the national park system designed by a young person — an 11-year-old Girl Scout. Just stop by the welcome center and ask for a free book or download it in advance on the park’s website (www.nps.gov/waco). Each book contains activities that help kids learn about the park and the amazing fossil resources. “Waco Junior Rangers become park stewards and proudly wear their ranger badges to show others that they are our best and brightest park representatives,” says Raegan King, monument site manager. fPark admission: $5 (adults), $4 (seniors 60-plus, teachers, military and students seventh grade-college), $3 (pre-kindergarten-sixth grade), free (age 3 and under). fInformation: 254-750-7946 or www.nps. gov/waco. 

July/August 2017 | 7


Need to send a really BIG file? It’s not as hard as you think


rom kindergarten graduation and prom night to first steps and walks down the aisle, our ever-present smartphones make capturing these precious moments all too easy.

Unfortunately, sharing these memories can be a challenge. Most email servers won’t accept attachments larger than 10 MB. But the average size of a digital photo is 2-3 MB; videos are even larger. Sending all the images from an event often requires numerous attachments or multiple emails, and that’s a hassle for everyone. Using a cloud storage system is the best option for sending large files. While it sounds magical, the cloud is just a practical way of storing data on a securely maintained, thirdparty server. It’s a way to view your files from any smartphone, tablet or computer that’s connected to the internet. The cloud is also a backup if your phone is lost or your computer crashes. Simply create an account with your chosen online cloud service and upload the files you wish to share. You can then notify a recipient that photos are ready to view with an emailed web link. When the recipient clicks on the link, it takes them to files stored in the cloud. If they aren’t members of the cloud service, they’ll be 8 | July/August 2017

required to create an account, which usually includes a 30-day free trial. Using a cloud service for sharing is a nobrainer. Choosing one is tougher. Here are some of the most popular: ƒƒ Dropbox is an established cloud service and offers 2 GB of free storage. This can be increased to as much as 16 GB by linking your Dropbox to social media accounts or referring friends. Individual pricing starts at $9.99 monthly, and business pricing starts at $15 monthly. Dropbox offers discounts for yearly billing. ƒƒ Google Drive is possibly the best option for Android users because it’s already integrated into your device. It offers 15 GB for free and 100 GB for $1.99 a month. ƒƒ OneDrive is likely the best option for Microsoft users because it’s integrated into Windows 10’s file explorer. It offers 5 GB for free and 50 GB for $1.99 a month.

BACK IT UP Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive are great for sharing files and for syncing documents between devices. For example, a report for school or work can be accessible on both a computer and a smartphone. It’s important, however, to remember those services are not ideal for backing up your files. A secondary physical copy, such as an external hard drive, is ideal. But also consider adding another layer of protection. Online backup services are capable of backing up all your files to the cloud. Options such as Carbonite and Backblaze are affordable at roughly $5 monthly. So share large files with friends, family and co-workers, and keep the data safe. 

Hi, I’m Matt Garrett. I work at the WK&T Technology Store in Mayfield. In this column, in each issue, you’ll learn about technology and read simple tips to get the most out of your electronics. For more tips or help with your devices, please come see me at the store. I’m always happy to help!

DEVICE OF THE MONTH ROKU 4 High-speed internet service offers more possibilities than just cloud-based file storage and the ability to easily share photos. In fact, broadband can change how you watch TV, providing access to services like Netflix and Hulu. That programming can appear on your TV with a little help from devices like the Roku 4. The Roku can connect to your wireless network and is capable of streaming shows in 4K to provide crisp video. And with a range of apps available, the Roku can connect to content suitable for nearly any taste. Plus, WK&T offers ViewLocal and Sling, which are both available on Roku 4. The WK&T Technology Store has them for sale now.

WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative

Nailing down a great meal The Hardware Cafe keeps customers smiling


Lisa Bruer piles on the fluffy meringue to complete the chocolate pie before putting it in the oven to finish.

Grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans are some of the staple menu items at the Hardware Cafe.


ost days, it seems as if just about everyone in Cunningham drops into the Hardware Cafe for breakfast or one of the daily lunch specials. Or maybe they come in for one of the best burgers around.

“We decided to jump in two feet first and hope something catches us along the way,” says Mary Ann Wilson, who owns and operates the Hardware Cafe with her husband, P.J. The Wilsons took over the cafe late last year from friend and former owner Blair Rudd. For seven years, Rudd owned the cafe housed in the building that formerly housed the Hardware Store of Cunningham. “My husband and I talked about it on and off,” Wilson says. “This was a deal we just couldn’t pass up, so I told him it’s now or never, and we just did it.” Rudd, who owns the West Kentucky Moonswiners food truck, decided to concentrate on his popular barbecue, which is still served at the Hardware Cafe. Wilson had worked in restaurants before, and her mother-inlaw was a restaurant manager and one-time restaurant owner. “Owning a restaurant is something he always wanted to do,” Wilson says of her WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative

husband. “But now that we’ve bought this place, I’ve ended up running it because he has a construction business that keeps him busy.” Her menu of home cooking, barbecue and sandwiches has been a hit among Cunningham’s residents. Daily specials include dishes such as country-fried steak, fried chicken and baked ham with vegetables. On Thursdays, barbecue baked potatoes are on the menu, and Friday nights are reserved for fish. The cafe is open from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Saturday. On Friday, it stays open until 8 p.m. for dinner. Wilson says she has made changes since taking control, including opening early. “When I took over, I opened breakfast back up and saw a big response on that,” she says. “So many people enjoy coming in for breakfast. “A lot of people started coming in for breakfast and lunch, and then on Fridays we’re open

The cafe offers daily specials as well as menu items like sandwiches, burgers, salads and more.

Owner Mary Ann Wilson runs the daily operations of the cafe, including preparing orders.

until 8 p.m., and they’ll come in three times a day to eat.” The decor consists of collectibles such as service station signs and knickknacks put together by Rudd when he first opened the Hardware Cafe. It all fits the theme of a revamped hardware store. Wilson says she considered changing the look but has been too busy with the day-to-day operations. The same goes with the name. “We talked about changing the name, but if we do, it’ll be a

couple of years,” she says. “But the Hardware Cafe fits because it was the old hardware store.” Wilson says she uses Facebook as her main web presence, but word of mouth in a small town in Kentucky is everything. “I’ve had a lot of wonderful support from the community,” Wilson says. “So many people come in and want us to stay. We’re the only place to eat other than the pizza place in Cunningham. People have given us a chance, and we really appreciate that.”  July/August 2017 | 9


Through the


The story behind revolutionary optical fibers



ric Parsons wore two hats when he worked as a sales manager for Corning Inc. in the 1970s. By day, he sold the manufacturing company’s glass and ceramics products to industrial and scientific customers. In the evenings, he and others on the sales staff would help with products being developed in the lab. Parsons still remembers the day a group working on a new communications technology appeared and told them to drop everything. “One day they came in and said, ‘Fellas, quit working on this altogether. This is dead,’” he recalls. “‘Box all your information up and put it in the archives. There’s a new technology called fiber optics.’” Since that day in 1979, fiber has become a household term, and millions of miles of line have crisscrossed the globe, connecting people continents apart almost instantaneously, supporting high-definition video and enabling lightning-fast internet.

COMMUNICATION IN A FLASH With exposure to so much technology, we’ve grown used to the idea that 10 | July/August 2017

information can travel in many ways. Landline telephones convert the sound of a voice on one end of a call into electric signals transmitted across lengths of wire. Cellphones ditched the wires in favor of radio waves that travel through the air. Corning scientists looked at those methods and took them a step further. “They said, ‘Hey I’ve got an idea. What if we transmit light through glass and use that for telecommunications?’” says Pat Turner, the director of marketing operations for Corning Optical Communications. Imagine you and a friend are on opposite ends of a long, straight tunnel and both have a flashlight. If you worked out a code, you could send signals with the flashlights that would reach the other person almost instantaneously. But what if the tunnel curved and changed direction multiple times? To send messages back and forth, you would need mirrors to bounce the light around corners. The same concept is at the heart of fiber optics. Each fiber strand is made up of a glass core thinner than a human hair. Light signals are transmitted through the

glass, just as you might send a signal down the tunnel. To keep the light from simply passing through the glass when it changes direction, the core is surrounded by a cladding that reflects light back into the glass. This works similarly to the mirrors in the tunnel, bouncing the signal from side to side until it reaches its endpoint. Since each fiber is much thinner than a traditional copper wire, fiber optics make it possible to transmit large amounts of information simultaneously. And a single cable can bundle hundreds, or even thousands, of fiber strands.

ACTUALLY, IT IS ROCKET SCIENCE Despite being incredibly thin, fiber is far from brittle. A single strand is three times stronger than steel and more durable than copper, yet light and flexible. In addition, to prevent the light signal from degrading over long distances, the glass core has to be extremely pure. So pure, in fact, that if the ocean was made of the same glass, you could stand on the surface and clearly see the ocean floor miles below.

To most people, it would seem almost impossible that such a material exists, much less that it could be manufactured on a large scale. “Making fiber is rocket science,” says Parsons. “Precision is everything.” He’s not exaggerating. The first step in manufacturing fiber requires mixing oxygen with liquid forms of silicon and germanium inside a glass tube. If that mixture isn’t just right, the resulting glass core might not be as durable or clear as necessary. As these chemicals mix, the tube is heated to extreme temperatures. The ensuing chemical reaction leaves a white soot on the inside of the glass tube, which the heat fuses into what will become the glass core of the fiber. The tube itself will become the reflective cladding surrounding the core. The process takes several hours to complete, with the tube eventually collapsing on itself to form a solid glass rod called a preform. While the preform has the internal structure needed for an optical fiber, it’s too

thick and bulky to be useful across long distances. To stretch it out, the preform is hung from a drawing tower, where one end of the rod is heated in an oven to 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, gravity takes over. As the tip of the rod softens, a glob falls slowly toward the ground, forming a long, thin thread not unlike honey stretching as it is poured from a spoon. But because of the strength of the glass, the fiber can become incredibly thin and stretch to great lengths without breaking. As it cools, the fiber is threaded through pulleys and receives a series of protective coatings before being wound onto a spool, ready to be tested and then used.

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the process behind fiber optics is the range of ways it’s being put to use. The convenience of blistering internet speeds or being able to carry on a crystal-clear phone conversation with someone on the other side of the world is apparent, but that’s just the start of how fiber is improving people’s

lives — especially in rural areas. “The true value of fiber is what we can do from a human aspect,” says Turner. “The ability to do distance learning for people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a university environment, or telemedicine, or allowing families to connect — that’s what is truly changing the landscape of the global community.” Fiber optics are even being used to provide tiny lights for improved nonintrusive surgery techniques and in the development of prosthetic limbs that can produce the sensation of feeling for the user. Almost five decades after its discovery, it still blows Turner’s mind to think scientists are uncovering new and innovative applications for fiber. “If you think about how that concept started from nothing, to what we have today, it’s mind-boggling,” he says. “They had the vision to see the potential of fiber. Then they had the technical capacity to make it happen. I’m in awe of the reality of what we have today because of the changes fiber has created.” 

July/August 2017 | 11

Jason, left, and Matthew Ingram talk with their father, Doug, in the new distribution warehouse being built.

Keeping it cool

High-speed internet keeps Kentucky’s largest online HVAC wholesaler growing



oug Ingram was a pipe fitter by trade when he stumbled into the refrigeration business. Another construction worker on a job site needed help with a valve, and Ingram did what he could.

“He told me, ‘You need to go to school for refrigeration,’ so I did,” Ingram says. Through the years, while still working full time as a pipe fitter, Ingram took on after-hours heating, cooling and refrigeration jobs. Soon, he was doing complete homes, installing heating and cooling 12 | July/August 2017

units and handling maintenance and repair work. “I didn’t set out to do that,” he says. “It was just word of mouth.” Eventually he worked as many hours at his part-time job as he was in his full-time job. “I was doing more than I could do on the side,” he says. He decided to start selling heating, air and water filtration equipment online; his products were first available on the internet in about 2000. Ingram’s Water and Air Equipment has focused on online sales ever since. Ingram was 57 when he quit his construction job and turned to heating, cooling and refrigeration. Now 68, he has no plans to slow down. “There are days I think I’m 107 now,” he says, joking.

He and his family own and operate Kentucky’s largest HVAC wholesale business, shipping thousands of orders across the country. For a long time, Paducah was home for the company, which also had a warehouse in Clarksville, Tennessee. But now, construction is complete for a new 76,000-square-foot facility at the Hickory Industrial Park near Mayfield in Graves County.

HOW IT STARTED Ingram, who was initially unsure the idea would work, talked to his son, Jason, about selling heating and cooling equipment through a website. “We started with a few orders,” he says. Jason Ingram put in the work necessary WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative

Erin Johnston, an online sales representative, enters data into the computer system.

Ingram’s is a family-owned business based in Paducah, Kentucky. The company is set to occupy a larger distribution warehouse near Mayfield, Kentucky.

to establish the online business. It wasn’t long until the company needed to hire someone to help out. “Anything pertaining to heating and air, we carry it,” Ingram says. He also hopes to learn more about water filtration, a portion of the business that shows continued promise. The company’s commercial and industrial division, operated by Ingram’s oldest son, Matt, provides equipment for larger projects such as schools and hospitals. The new Hickory Industrial Park allowed Ingram’s Water and Air Equipment to consolidate at one location. The high-speed, fiber-based internet service through WK&T was a factor in choosing the location, Ingram says. “We have to rely on a good internet connection since just about everything we do is online,” he says. “To have that much capacity is overwhelming and is a big advantage for us.” He says WK&T was helpful in determining the best options for the new facility. “I can’t say enough about what they’ve done to help us,” he says. The new site will host a national online sales center and national HVAC distribution facility and will feature Kentucky’s largest HVAC wholesale showroom. Ingram says the company is not competing with other local HVAC companies, even though it now offers a showroom. WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative

“Most of our sales are in other parts of the country,” he says. “Our sales are sales other businesses would never see.” They offer online purchases for many different brands of heating, air and water filtration equipment. They also take phone orders during business hours and are available during those times to provide technical support and answer questions about products, shipping or other services. “It’s our goal to go above and beyond the customer’s expectation to ensure absolute satisfaction,” he says.

NEW JOBS Ingram’s Water and Air Equipment employed about 35 people before the opening of the new location, but the new facility will mean some additional jobs. “It’s just a real blessing to be able to provide jobs to people who need them,” Ingram says. He says it takes a lot of people to make everything run smoothly, and he says he believes employees run the company “like a Christian business should be run.” “But I tell them, ‘Don’t call me “boss.” I’m part of a team,’” he says. “Every team member has a job to do, and it takes everybody working together. It takes a team to do that.” It’s those team members who helped fill more than 16,000 orders last year, says

Kyle Davis, marketing manager. There are peaks and valleys. With the company focused on heating and air, it tends to be busiest in warmer months. “A random Wednesday in January is nothing like a random Wednesday in July,” Davis says. For a company that does most of its business through online orders, the internet is important. “We’re primarily an e-commerce company,” he says. “We’re one of the largest HVAC online wholesalers, and the industry is growing by leaps and bounds. We’re in the fastest-growing online market segment right now.” Ingram’s has created a system that caters to the online market. For example, they provide free shipping across the country and cover warranties and provide technical support online or by phone. While the company does offer products through eBay and Amazon, its website is the primary storefront: www.ingrams waterandair.com. And their physical location is not the only redesign; a new website is planned for this year. Ingram says he plans to pass the business on to his sons, who have worked hard alongside all the other employees. “We have worked tremendously hard,” he says. “This didn’t just fall into our laps. We had an idea, and we were persistent. We give all the praise to our maker.”  July/August 2017 | 13


In search of the perfect summer treat?

Don’t miss the Pageland Watermelon Festival


ou know it’s summertime in South Carolina when watermelons are put on a pedestal and celebrated by hordes of visitors to the Pageland Watermelon Festival.

Now in its 66th year, what began as a small community affair to promote local melon growers has grown into a festival that lures visitors and competitors. Come see one of South Carolina’s best parades on Saturday morning. Men and women, both young and old, test their spitting power in the annual seed-spitting contest — the record spit is 29 feet. And there are, of course, sweet watermelons. “We give away watermelon slices during several periods at the festival,” says festival director Darron Kirkley. And if a slice of watermelon isn’t enough to satisfy your craving, visit any one of dozens of vendors who get into the spirit of the festival by selling watermelon smoothies, watermelon ice cream and burgers with watermelon on the side. Also, local farmers will be on hand

selling the sweet fruit, and there are so many ways to enjoy it once you get it home. Cooking with watermelon is all about preparation, says Stephanie Barlow, senior communications director for the National Watermelon Promotion Board. “Watermelon is 92 percent water, so it’s quite watery,” she says. “If you want to try to make foods like grilled watermelon, we suggest taking your piece of watermelon and patting it between paper towels to remove the excess juice.” Grilling is just one idea that takes watermelon beyond fruit salad. “Nothing surprises me anymore with the creative uses for watermelon,” Barlow says. “But I am often wowed by what you can do with it. My favorites are recipes that use the whole melon, whether using

WHAT: Pageland Watermelon Festival (parade, rodeo, seed-spitting contest, watermeloneating contest, car show, fireworks and more). WHEN: July 21-22. Activities begin at 3 p.m. on Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday. WHERE: Various locations around downtown Pageland, South Carolina, which claims to be the Watermelon Capital of the World. INFORMATION: pagelandwatermelonfestival.com.

the rind as the serving vessel, slivering the rind for coleslaw, or juicing the scraps of watermelon for delicious healthy juice.” One of the newest recipes entering the kitchens of the Watermelon Promotion Board is a watermelon stir fry. And for the upcoming tailgating season, there’s watermelon fire and ice salsa. “I also use the salsa over blackened salmon or chicken and kick up the fire with some extra jalapeno pepper,” Barlow says. There are more than 1,200 varieties of watermelons grown in 96 countries on the market. In South Carolina alone, there are seven main watermelon production areas; Chesterfield County, home to Pageland, is one of the strongest producers. The variety most often seen at the festival is Crimson Sweet. Watermelons can have red, yellow and even orange flesh. And though most are large and oval, there have been square ones on the market. And don’t forget about the wonderfully convenient miniwatermelons — all can be used interchangeably in any recipe, such as the following ones. They’re the finest things you can do with a watermelon save cutting it open, slicing it up and eating it — a taste of summer in every sweet bite.  FOOD EDITOR ANNE P. BRALY IS A NATIVE OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE.

14 | July/August 2017

1 cup walnut pieces 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon soy sauce 2 cups balsamic vinegar 1 cup sugar 1 sprig fresh rosemary 4 ounces fresh baby greens 2 seedless oranges, peeled and sectioned 4 cups seedless watermelon cubes 2 cups seedless grapes, halved 2 cups fresh, trimmed and sliced strawberries 1 cup crumbled blue cheese

Heat the walnuts in a seasoned wok or heavy nonstick saute pan over medium heat for a minute and stir in the sugar and soy sauce. Adjust heat to prevent burning while constantly stirring the nuts until the sugar melts. Continue to stir and cook until the nuts begin to stick and the mixture is getting sticky. Spread the nuts over a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and cool. Break apart into small pieces and crumble. Set aside. Heat the vinegar in a heavy noncorrosive saucepan over medium heat and stir in sugar. Continue to stir and adjust heat to bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the rosemary sprig to the pan. Continue to simmer until the contents of the pan reduce by 1/2 their original volume. Set aside. Divide the greens among 6-8 salad plates and arrange the orange sections, watermelon, grapes and strawberries over the greens. Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the fruit and the cheese crumbles over that. Top with the candied walnut pieces and serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

Watermelon rind stir-fry 2 1 1 1 1/2 1

cups watermelon rind, julienned (white part only, from about 1/2 of a seedless watermelon) cup julienned carrots 1-inch piece of ginger, minced clove garlic, minced cup chives, cut into 3-inch pieces tablespoon honey

Watermelon kiwi

; Smoothies ;

2 cups seedless watermelon chunks 2 peeled and chopped kiwis 2 cups vanilla yogurt 1 cup ice 2 sprigs of fresh mint, for garnish

1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon fish sauce 2 teaspoons sesame oil 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn 1/4 cup mint leaves 1/4 cup cilantro leaves Crushed red pepper flakes (optional) Heat sesame oil in a wok over high heat. Add the watermelon rind and carrots and stir-fry, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Let sit over high heat for 1 additional minute without stirring. Add the chives and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and ginger. Pour the sauce over the watermelon rind and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Transfer to a serving dish. Add the basil,

Photo courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Blue watermelon walnut salad

Place watermelon, kiwi, yogurt and ice in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Makes 2 servings.

cilantro and mint, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve as a side dish with chicken, fish or steak. Makes 4 servings.

Fire and ice salsa

3 cups chopped watermelon 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper 2 tablespoons lime juice 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro 1 tablespoon chopped green onions 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno pepper 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, mix well and serve with tortilla chips or over grilled chicken or fish. î‚š July/August 2017 | 15

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